U.S Men’s National Team Manager Bruce Arena visited Orlando City Stadium on Saturday to see the facility where his men will play their final World Cup qualifier in October, and took in a match between the Lions and Sporting Kansas City to see the first-class atmosphere that Orlando fans bring to the match.
Bruce Arena took over the job as U.S Men’s National Team manager from Jurgen Klinsmann, who parted ways with U.S Soccer after his team lost the first two games in their World Cup qualifying tournament, known as the Hex. Arena said it was essential that U.S Soccer pick venues that best suited their team, and there was no better place to finish off the tournament than Orlando City Stadium.
“As we know, the U.S did not start the Hex in great shape having lost our first two games. Therefore, when we entered 2017 it was critical that we were able to select venues that would help the U.S team,” Arena said. “In March, we played in San Jose, another MLS venue, which was fantastic. And we know that as we close the campaign our last home game is going to be critical and perhaps the deciding factor in us qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in 2018. And there could not be a better venue, a better city to select than Orlando. We know when we come here in Orlando there will be 25,000 people here supporting the U.S team and giving us every chance to be victorious on the day and heading to Russia in 2018.”
Arena laughed about the last time he visited Orlando, when the L.A Galaxy team that he coached lost 4-0 to the Lions last season. But for him, a visit to Orlando is something that he looks forward to-- especially when his team will be the home team rather than the opponent.
“I’m extremely excited. I’ve been to Orlando a couple of times-- one time not real excited when I coached the Galaxy here in your other venue-- but it’s a beautiful city and seeing the venue here for the first time,” Arena said. “I saw the field, I’ve seen the stadium, and I can just imagine what this atmosphere is gonna be like.”
The announcement is huge for Orlando City Stadium, and Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao spoke a bit about what hosting this event means for the organization and the City Beautiful.
“It’s massive for us, for our stadium. Since the beginning, when we started planning the building, we always thought it would be very important to bring events of that caliber to this stadium,” Leitao said. “We are very fortunate and happy to be able to do this on October 6th. Hopefully we can help you coach with our fans, our atmosphere, our environment. This is really, really important for us.”
Arena’s team currently sits in fourth place in the Hex. A top-three finish will automatically qualify them for the 2018 World Cup, where a fourth place finish would require them to play an inter-confederation playoff match against an Asian team. Arena is looking for a boost to help lift his team to success and this stadium-- with these fans-- might be able to do just that.
“I think it’s absolutely fabulous,” Arena said. “I can’t think that there is a better venue in the United States.”